I met Tony Dungy the first day he enrolled at the University of Minnesota. And I have kept in contact with him since.

I always tell people that if you judge a person from 1 to 10, then Dungy, who brings his Colts to the Metrodome today, is a 20.

He is one of the most amazing people I have met in my long sportswriting career, and I have never heard a person say a bad word about him. He has done so much for so many.

And he brings with him Tom Moore, who was the Gophers offensive coordinator when Dungy was the team's quarterback. Now Moore, who helped recruit Dungy in college, is Dungy's offensive coordinator with Indianapolis, and he will be here today calling the plays for the great Peyton Manning.

"Still going strong," Dungy said of Moore. "Tom is approaching his 70th birthday, and I see no signs of him slowing up. He's got a great relationship with Peyton, and the offense still just keeps rolling, kind of a top-five offense every year. And he's a big, big part of it."

Dungy has a lot of respect for another coordinator in today's game. Leslie Frazier was on Dungy's staff in 2005 and '06 before becoming the Vikings defensive coordinator, so Frazier knows the Colts personnel pretty well.

"He is a good guy, a good coach, but more than that a good person," Dungy, himself a former Vikings defensive coordinator, said of Frazier. "I think [he's] somebody that everybody in the organization kind of tunes in to. The players really like [him], and I think the [Vikings] defense is just going to get better and better.

"Leslie, you know, played on those great Bears teams, and he'd been a head coach in college. He just knows people and he's very, very sharp. He was at Cincinnati and I'd recommended him a couple of places and we said, 'Hey, you ought to come work with us.' And he was a big part of our Super Bowl team, and I just think he's destined to be a head coach."

Tough to repeat

The Colts won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, and Dungy talked about how tough it is to repeat.

"For a number of reasons," Dungy said. "I think there's that human nature side of it, where you've got to make sure that you don't let up, but more than that, you're the focus the following year. You're playing on national TV, you're playing Sunday night games, Monday night games, Thursday night games. The schedule gets more difficult because you're playing the first-place schedule, and every place you go, their focus is to beat the defending champs. So, you get everybody's best shot and it does become tough."

Dungy talked about how his style of handling the players is similar to Bud Grant's.

"I'm pretty much like Coach Grant: I think that inspirational stuff and motivational speeches is really kind of overrated," he said. "If guys know what to do, they're going to go out there and do it well, and that's what I concentrate on, just getting our guys to make sure they know what to do."

Dungy, who will turn 53 next month, has some ideas of what he will do once he quits coaching.

"I'd like to really do some more stuff one-on-one, reaching out to young boys, especially," he said. "We've got so many guys that come into our league now that didn't grow up with their dads, and I just look back at all the information, and all the support that I got from my father, and just see so many kids in this country that don't have that.

"You can do a certain amount from a head coaching position and talk to kids and talk to groups, but I'd really like to get into some one-on-one stuff where you're helping young people."

Lucky to win

The Gophers beat Montana State 35-23 Saturday, but the losing team had the advantage in several statistical categories.

The visitors had 21 first downs to 12 for the Gophers; had 356 yards of offense to the Gophers' 352; and possessed the ball for 31 minutes, 1 second to 28:59 for the home team. And they overall outplayed the Gophers after losing to Kansas State 69-10 last week.

Gophers coach Tim Brewster was happy to be 3-0 but made it clear he was disappointed in the performance of his team.

"Obviously there is some disappointment in knowing that I'm not sure that we improved as much today as I wanted us to improve," Brewster said. "I thought we improved greatly from Week 1 to Week 2. I don't think we improved as much today from Week 2 to Week 3, and I take full responsibility for our preparation and the things that we did in this football game."

Florida Atlantic, the Gophers' next foe, lost 17-0 at Michigan State and beat the Gophers 42-39 in Miami a year ago. It will take a much better performance by the Gophers to win next week.


Twins catcher Mike Redmond after catching Francisco Liriano for eight innings in Thursday's extra-inning loss to Kansas City, said: "That's probably the best that I've seen [Liriano] so far. ... He's getting a lot stronger. Each one of those starts you can see him starting to get stronger and his velocity and his nastiness is coming."

With the departure of Ben Utecht as a free agent to Cincinnati, the lone remaining former Gophers player on the Colts roster is defensive lineman Darrell Reid, and Dungy is high on him. "He's one of those guys that brings a lot of energy. He's our number one special teams player," Dungy said. "He was just a few votes short of going to the Pro Bowl as the AFC special-teamer. He's been great for us, and doing really well." ... John Teerlinck, a Vikings assistant coach from 1992 to '94, is in his seventh season as defensive line coach for the Colts.

Sam Maresh, the outstanding Gophers football recruit from Champlin Park who is missing action this year after heart surgery, is convinced he will play next season. "I'm in pretty good shape right now," the linebacker said. "I think I'll be able to play in the springtime. I'm pretty confident, just [in] the way things are going and the steps that I'm making right now, I'm lifting three times a week, running three times a week, and it just feels good to get out there and be active." Maresh said he lost about 15 pounds after surgery but now has his weight up to 230, near his listed playing weight of 235.

Montana State was paid $300,000 to play the Gophers here, and with an announced attendance of 43,929 Saturday, the Gophers didn't turn a big profit on this game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com